Columbia Univ. Professor Somasundaran elected Chair of Hoover Board of Award


Dr. Ponisseril Somasundaran, the La von Duddleson Krumb Professor of Mineral Engineering and Director of the Langmuir Center for Colloids and Interfaces at Columbia University, has been elected Chair of the Hoover Board of Award.

The award, established in 1929, commemorates the civic and humanitarian achievements of engineers. The board consists of representatives from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers; American Society of Civil Engineers; American Society of Mechanical Engineers; and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The award is named in honor of Herbert Hoover, who led the effort to feed millions of Belgian and French refugees during World War I. It recognizes great, unselfish, non-technical services by engineers to humanity. Past recipients have included Jimmy Carter, Dwight Eisenhower, Lillian Gilbreth, A P J Abdul Kalam, N.R. Narayana Murthy, and Steve Wozniak.

Professor Somasundaran received his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. After 5 years with the International Minerals and Chemical Corporation and Reynolds Industries, he joined the Columbia University faculty.

In 1985, he was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, which is among the highest professional distinctions that can be conferred to an engineer. Later he was also inducted into the National Academy of Inventors, Chinese National Academy of Engineering, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and the Balkan Academy of Mineral Technology Sciences.

More recently, Professor Somasundaran was the sole Foreign Fellow elected to the Royal Society of Canada.  He was awarded the “Ellis Island Medal of Honor” in 1990. In March 2010, the President of India awarded him the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian honors.

He was also appointed to the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) US EPA in 2014 and chair of its Chemical Safety and Sustainability committee as well as the Hazardous risk committee and reappointed to the Board in December 2017.

Professor Somasundaran was appointed as an Honorary Professor at the Central University of Technology of China, an Honorary Research Advisor at the Beijing Research Institute of Mining & Metallurgy, Beijing, visiting professor/scientist at the University of Melbourne and at the Indian Institute of Science.

Always up for new challenges and the will to rectify problems that plague humanity, Professor Somasundaran’s research has always been focused on a wide spectrum of environmental problems including Greener Chemistry, pollution control and remediation, controlled release in personal care, sludge treatment, waste water treatment, and nanotoxicity.

And now, he has risen quietly to tackle the latest challenge that people on the planet are facing, Coronavirus. He is now focused on means to decontaminate viruses and control Coronavirus.

Not just an academician, scientist and researcher, he has also authored and edited 15 books and of over 700 scientific publications and patents and has essayed the role of editor of Encyclopedia of Surface & Colloid Science and the Honorary Editor-in-chief of the international journal “Colloids and Surfaces”.

He has served on many professional committees including National Research Council Panels, National Science Foundation, Department of Interior, Department of Energy, National Institute of Dental Research and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Advisory panels. He was the Chairman of the Board of the Engineering Foundation (1993-95).